Last updated October 13th, 2017
Typically, we do not recommend acoustic guitars under 300 dollars.
The reason is that guitars in that price range, acoustic or otherwise, tend to lack many of the features we look for when trying to pin down acoustic guitars with substantive value. Sure, they're cheap, but what are you getting in return? In some cases the value is there, but it depends on the context and intent of the buyer.
Because, in many cases, someone buying a cheap guitar just wants something to try, without making an investment, which is valid reasoning.
To help, we're putting together a list of what we believe are the best acoustic guitars under 300 dollars that give you the absolute best value without exceeding that price point.
If you're buying in that price range, these are the acoustic guitars you should target.
Other Buying Resources
At the same time, if you want to look at acoustic guitars we can confidently recommend, that exceed the 300 dollar price tag, here are a few resources you might find additionally helpful:
What This List Assumes
This list assumes a basic understanding of the acoustic guitar, the brands represented in this list and the different parts used in acoustic guitar construction (fretboard, body, strings, etc.).
We're also not ranking or reviewing all these guitars individually. Instead, this article is meant to be a running updated list of where we recommend starting your search for a cheap acoustic guitar. For more information on the scope and design of this list, please refer to the "Why this List is a Curation and not a Ranking" section.
What quality features can we expect in acoustic guitars under 300 dollars?
With acoustic guitars in this price range, we've got to get really general when assessing value. Because in most cases, the typical quality markers are simply not going to be there. Solid wood, onboard preamps and Elixir strings are the exceptions, not the rule. Thus, our challenge is to find those exceptions.
"In this situation, the price is the feature."
We should also keep in mind that in this situation, the price is the feature. Most who are looking for an acoustic guitar that cheap, don't care about the quality features that we usually use to measure good guitars.
The biggest issue is that we find something functional, that will allow you to strum and get used to the instrument, perhaps before investing in a nicer one.
As with most of our buying content, we'll present this as a curation and not a review or ranking.
Why this list is a Curation and not a Ranking
A lot of folks who are buying a guitar, especially when it's under $300, want to simply be shown their best option. While the answer to that question is always contextual, we've added a "top two" section right beneath this paragraph that tells you the two best acoustic guitars under 300 dollars that we're most likely to recommend to the largest amount of people. They're the "best of" from this entire list.
We've also chosen one acoustic guitar from each brand curation to highlight as our favorite of that particular brand, within our established price range.
All the acoustic guitars in this list are under 300 dollars.
However, the lists of acoustic guitars we've put together are not intended to be a review or a ranking.
- This list is NOT a review
- This list is NOT a ranking
We went with a curation template instead because we've contextualized this article to be relevant to a specific group of people.
In other words, all the acoustic guitars in this list are under 300 dollars, and that's the main reason they're here.
Top Two Best Acoustic Guitars Under 300 Dollars
We define value as the convergence of the lowest possible price with the highest possible amount of value markers or quality features. These two acoustic guitars are what we believe give you that optimal convergence, at the sub-300 dollar level.
Yamaha acoustics have been a bit hard to nail down over the years and tend to go feast-or-famine in terms of the quality they turn up. However, they're more likely to be found near the budget end of the pricing spectrum than say, Taylor or Martin. This makes them a particularly good brand to target if you want to get in under the 300 dollar price tag.
They're popular starter guitars based on that fact alone. And while we typically don't recommend the starter packs, they're okay in the under-300 dollar context, particularly from Yamaha.
Yamaha does a good job of manufacturing a wide variety of sizes and styles of acoustic guitar. For example, they have several 3/4 sized guitars which are fantastic for kids or even adults who have smaller hands or simply want a smaller guitar. We'll start with the FG830 solid top, then add our full suggestion list from Yamaha's acoustic lineup.
Our Top Yamaha Pick
The FG830 is our top pick from this list and beats out the FG800 with a tonewood upgrade, going from Nato to Rosewood for the back and sides of the guitar.
You'll notice, if you click through to Amazon, that you can get several different variations of this guitar, including different tonewood combinations, colors and bundle options:
Lots of different "configurations" for this particular model. View on Amazon
One of the bundles includes a hardshell case and several guitar picks, which makes it a solid value, especially for beginners who want to start playing without having to make multiple purchases. The FG830's flagship feature is a solid Sitka Spruce top (this is included regardless of which body type you choose) which, combined with the Rosewood, creates a surprisingly professional-sounding acoustic tone with a lot of thick warmth and low-end for a good strumming feel.
Everything from Yamaha We'd Recommend Under 300 Dollars
Acoustic guitars are not widely considered to be Fender's wheelhouse. Stratocasters, Telecasters and tube amps are more often thought of as the legendary company's areas of expertise. But, they do a lot of work with beginner-level acoustics, and provide some notable options within our salary cap.
Mahogany and Maple are the tonewood you'll see most often in this price range and, unfortunately, with Fender you don't see much in the way of solid components.
Still, even with laminate construction, there's some good value to be found here, especially if you can nab one of the Fender acoustic that include a Fishman preamp.
We'll get you there first with the T-Bucket 300.
Our Top Fender Pick
The body style is a mixture of the dreadnought shape and concert cutaway, which makes for a nice balance of highs and lows in your EQ. As expected, the body is all laminate, with scalloped X-bracing on the interior and a combination of Maple and Mahogany for everything else.
Undoubtedly, the most attractive feature is the Fishman Isys III pickup and preamp system, making the T-Bucket 300 particularly ideal for those who want to plug in their acoustic to an amp or PA system.
Out of the box it sounds okay, but we found that an upgrade to Elixir acoustic strings made a significant improvement.
We'd like to see a solid Spruce top instead of laminate Maple, but the Fishman preamp gets this one over the finish line without missing a beat.
Everything from Fender We'd Recommend Under 300 Dollars
Takamine & Jasmine Roundup
In addition to being a popular mid-range acoustic guitar brand, Takamine also has a line of economy models under the name "Jasmine."
These are some of the cheapest guitars available, some of which don't even break three figures. Again, we should reiterate that with guitars this cheap, the price is the best feature we can brag about. In most other contexts, we probably wouldn't recommend them. However, if you're just going for cheap, the three Jasmine acoustics we mention here are decent options to get your started.
For Takamine, they're a popular mid-range brand, though some of the lower-cost models still provide a solid top (usually done in Cedar) among several other perks.
Our favorite of the bunch is the GN20-NS.
Our Takamine/Jasmine Pick
A solid Cedar top combined with Mahogany back and sides produces a noticeably warm tone, despite the smaller, concert-style body shape. We noticed that the split-style saddle design (the white pieces on the bridge) along with the pinless bridge (we like pinless bridges a lot) seem to help the guitar stay in tune better, which can be a problem with cheaper acoustic models using a more traditional bridge setup.
There are no electronics, but if that's not a concern, this guitar provides a lot of perks that you usually only see in much more expensive models.
Everything from Takamine & Jasmine We'd Recommend Under 300 Dollars
Epiphone was a direct competitor of Gibson before being bought by CMI in 1957, a company that also owned Gibson at the time. The Epiphone brand eventually became known for producing an economy line of many popular Gibson models, primarily the Les Paul and SG guitars, were (and still are) far more affordable than the originals.
A lesser-known fact is that Epiphone has a remarkably solid line of beginner and mid-range acoustic models.
Particularly if you're looking for something with the dreadnought body shape (the larger, more conventional acoustic body design), Epiphone has some good variety to choose from, several of which dip really low on the pricing scale.
With our price as limited as it is, we're recommending only four, with the AJ-22SCE leading the charge.
Our Epiphone Pick
The top of the guitar is a solid Sitka Spruce job, just like the Taylor 114ce. Other features include an onboard preamp, Rosewood fingerboard and a soft-style cutaway, making it a useful acoustic for either lead or rhythm guitar work. Your onboard preamp is something called the "Premium Shadow Performer" which is pictured here:
Premium Shadow Performer preamp. (View Larger Image)
While we don't know much about this preamp (it's made by a third-party company called "Shadow Electronics") it does give you a fair amount of control, if and when you decide to plug the AJ-22 into an amp.
- Volume (gain)
- Low Mid
- High Mid
- Phase Button
Tone-wise it has a strong and deep resonance, which doesn't sound at all cheap or hollowed out, though we liked it more unplugged as the preamp seems to be largely at the mercy of its destination amplifier (cheaper speakers seemed particularly unforgiving).
We're not sure what strings it ship with but, as usual, we're recommending you switch them out with acoustic Elixirs for a tone boost. The pin system on the bridge isn't our favorite, especially since we've noticed, and heard, people complain about this one staying in tune.
But again, if it's price you're concerned about, this is one of the best Epiphone options within that range.
Everything from Epiphone We'd Recommend Under 300 Dollars
Ibanez acoustics are a bit of a mystery.
First, like the company's electric guitar lines, there are just a lot of them, which makes sorting and filtering all our options hard to do. Second, they're widely spread out in terms of quality and pricing, with plenty of cheap options that you'll see alongside nicer acoustics.
Within the price we've established, there's little room for error, and solid wood is a scarce commodity.
However, if you know where to look, some of these cheaper Ibanez acoustics do have some redeemable features, including the Ibanez in-house preamp, which is surprisingly good. We'll start with the Artwood Mahogany model.
Our Ibanez Pick
The AW54CEOPN does give you a solid top made of Mahogany, which has an open pore natural finish, providing that rougher wood grain look. From an aesthetics perspective, the AW models score really high, adding a slick cutaway to the dreadnought body shape.
Ibanez's onboard preamp is simple, but effectively setup with a volume, two-band EQ, tuner and phase button.
The Ibanez AEQ preamp. (View Larger Image)
This unit actually has Fishman components, which is a big thumbs up for an already decent-sounding circuit.
The tone and resonance of this guitar has a uniquely modern sound with a tight bass-driven response and a bell-like quality to the higher notes. When plugged in, we felt the preamp did a little better in the melody department, while the natural resonance of the body favored the strumming and rhythm side.
Everything from IBanez We'd Recommend for Beginners
Does an all-laminate construction ruin the experience of a cheap acoustic guitar?
Does laminate ruin the party?
As you might have gathered, when dealing with really cheap guitars, tonewood, particularly solid blocks of it, is the first thing to get downgraded.
How much does that matter in this price range?
Regardless of the price, an acoustic guitar's biggest quality indicator is always going to be the type and grade of wood used. Not only are you looking for a Dendrology term (Ash, Spruce, Maple, etc.) but, more importantly, you're looking at whether that type of wood is added via a solid piece or laminate layering. It's always going to be one of the two, for each part of an acoustic guitar's body:
- Solid wood construction
- Laminate construction
Having "solid" wood means exactly what you would expect; that the piece has been made of a single block of wood without any additives or additional layers. The unfortunate issue with laminate is that it does use added layers of cheaper wood to bolster a thin layer of wood, which is what they'll call the entire piece. For example, you might have a thin layer of Mahogany on the back, with several layers of Pine or something even cheaper beneath it.
Yet, the specs will say something like the following:
- Mahogany back
- "Select" Mahogany back
- Laminate Mahogany back
Watch for the term "select." It's usually filler so manufacturers don't have to use "laminate" in the description of the product.
On the other hand, you'll see solid tonewood highlighted as a feature, whereas parts of a guitar that use laminate might be nondescript or omitted entirely.
For example, you might see the following specs:
- Solid Cedar top
- Rosewood back and sides
Would you say they're both made of solid wood? Unfortunately, that's almost never the case. Whenever a manufacturer of acoustic guitars names the wood but neglects to specify solid or laminate, they're almost always avoiding the laminate descriptor.
Because, as we alluded to in the above paragraphs, it doesn't help sell guitars. It's a negative in the eyes of the consumer.
The morale of the story is this: While a lack of solid wood doesn't mean the guitar is garbage, or that laminate is on the same level as particle board, solid construction is always a feature you're better off having more of. When figuring out how these cheaper guitars are actually made, it's really important to pay attention to the language used in the specs regarding tonewood.
Companies will usually use the word "solid" when they can, but avoid specifying "laminate" even if it's used in their guitars. (View Larger Image)
Typically, the breakdown is one of these three:
- All-laminate construction (top, back and sides) (sometimes acceptable)
- Solid top, with laminate back and sides (better)
- All-solid construction (best)
Even in cheaper acoustics, the more solid wood you have, the better. It's a major quality indicator, no matter how you look at it.
Are acoustic preamps (pickups) necessary for a cheaper guitar?
Electronics in an acoustic guitar simply mean you've got an onboard pickup and preamp that allow you to plug your acoustic into an actual amplifier or PA system, just like you would an electric guitar. The issue is that it (predictably) adds to the cost of the guitar.
In simple terms:
- Preamp system included: Price goes up.
- No preamp system included: Price goes down.
What you've got to figure out is whether or not this is a feature you want to pay for. When you're talking about an acoustic guitar under 300 dollars, odds are that you won't want or need a preamp. In most cases, a guitar this cheap will be for casual practice and easy living room strumming.
There's usually no need to hook it up to an amplifier.
If you decide this is a feature you do need or want, you can think of acoustic preamps in two broad categories, based on manufacturing method:
- Developed by same company that makes the guitar (Epiphone eSonic2, Takamine TK-40d, etc.)
- Inclusion from a third party (Fishman, BBE, etc.)
In other words, companies will either include a third-party preamp, like the Fishman Sonitone system, or design their own, like the Ibanez preamps.
Generally speaking, we prefer and recommend the third-party preamps and acoustic pickups since they tend to be produced by companies that specialize in that area. Take the Woody XL home page from Seymour Duncan, for example:
Seymour Duncan knows their stuff when it comes to acoustic guitar pickups. Image via Seymour Duncan
Seymour Duncan developed this pickup on its own, specifically for acoustic guitars. The preamps that come with acoustic guitars and share a manufacturer, often times feel like a cheap afterthought more than a standalone product that someone was passionate about. Seymour Duncan, Fishman and L.R. Baggs make pickups and preamps specifically for acoustic guitars, so you know they're giving each product a lot of attention and care, both in the design and manufacturing process.
If possible, we want their products in our acoustic guitars, regardless of the guitar's price tag.
That's not to say the Taylor ES-2 or the eSonic2 by Epiphone aren't viable alternatives. The quality of onboard acoustic preamps, especially the ones made in-house as secondary priorities by guitar manufacturers, is harder to determine with any accuracy. In most cases they work fine and aren't distinctly frustrating or encouraging.
On cheaper guitars like these, we tend to prefer natural resonance to the plugged-in sound. Still, it's always nice to have the option to plug your acoustic in, even if you don't plan to use it that way initially.
What makes a "good" onbard preamp?
At a basic level, a decent onboard acoustic preamp and pickup should afford you the following control over your tone:
- Gain (volume)
- Three-band EQ
Again, if you want to plug into an acoustic amp or a PA system, a preamp is something you'll want to make sure is included, which we've seen is distinctly possible, even when the guitars are as cheap as these ones happen to be.
Otherwise, for those who just want to strum indoors or quietly on their own, it's not a necessary expense to incur.
Assessing Cost and Value in an Acoustic Guitar Under 300 Dollars
Acoustic guitar value can be difficult to determine, especially when you're working with acoustics at such a low price point. You'll find that they're actually quite simple in terms of their construction. An acoustic guitar is just a large piece of wood, steel or nylon strings and maybe some electronics, those of which aren't even critical to the structure of the instrument.
For those shopping cheap, the most important thing is to make note of the tonewood and construction, along with the size and whether or not you want a preamp included.
- Tonewood and construction (solid or laminate)
- Size of the guitar (small, 3/4, concert, full dreadnought, etc.)
- Preamp and pickup inclusion
In our parent acoustic guitar guide, we've added a total of six value indicators that we recommend using outside of the pricing context we've established in this piece. You can refer to those if you need more help contextualizing your needs and purpose for your new acoustic.
FAQ about Cheap Acoustic Guitars
Q: Is 100 to 200 dollars too cheap for an acoustic guitar?
A: As we've been saying, you can get to a point where the price is the best feature of the guitar. Whether or not that's "too cheap" depends on how you intend to use it. Our advice is to look at an acoustic guitar as either a trial or an investment. If you know you're interested in learning guitar, then we recommend an acoustic guitar for a beginner as an investment, not simply a trial. If you aren't sure if it's "your thing," there's nothing wrong with buying low to try things out. In that situation, it's okay to go with rock-bottom price tags.
Q: What if the action on my acoustic guitar is too high?
A: Most guitars, acoustic or electric, need to have action adjusted. You can do this using the truss rod or take it to a Guitar Center or local music shop to have it done, which is sometimes called "setting up" a guitar. The cost should be minimal.
Q: What string brand should I use for acoustic guitars that are this cheap?
A: Elixir strings are what we most often recommend for both acoustic and electric guitars, but there are plenty of other options that are good for replacing stock strings. Ernie Ball, Martin and D'Addario are a couple other companies we like.
Q: What string gauge should beginners use for acoustic guitar?
A: For beginners, the lighter the gauge the better. Go by the thickest string and shoot for a pack labeled "light" which usually means the thickest string will be .042.
Q: Are the small acoustic guitars just for children or people with small hands?
A: No. Guitars like the Little Martin and Big Baby Taylor, while ideal for kids and small hands, are not intended only for those contexts. In fact, Ed Sheeran plays a small acoustic, similar to the Little Martin, as his main stage instrument.
Q: Is it possible for these guitars to last beyond the beginner's stage, perhaps beyond the first few years of playing?
A: We do not recommend the sub-300 dollar guitars for the long term. Having said that, they can and do last for years without breaking or having to be replaced. Odds are, if you stick with the acoustic guitar as an area of interest, you'll want to upgrade to a nicer, more professional-sounding instrument.
- All About Tonewood by Dave Hunter
- Our Acoustic Guitar Article Roundup
- Taylor's Bracing Design Page.
- Fishman's Sonitone Preamp Page
- Epiphone's eSonic2 Preamp Explenation
- Instructable's Acoustic Guitar Setup Article
- AcousticGuitar.com's Setup Article
- Musician's Friend Beginner Acoustic Recommendations
- Picture of Ed Sheeran and his tiny guitar
Credits and Contributions
- Article design and layout: Bobby Kittleberger and Millie Roark
- Product consultation: Peter Driver and Jonathan Pincek
- Banner image: Flickr Commons via Unai Mateo Photography
Educator, writer and guitarist since 1996.
Worship leader, PCA deacon and guitarist.
Session musician, guitar, keyboard & bass
Comments and Questions
Have questions about the beginner acoustic guitars listed here?
Maybe you have a question about a different guitar or think there's one we should add to the list?
Please drop it in the comments section here and we'll take a look. We're always using comments to update these kinds of posts and keep them current.